Month: February 2020

Let’s play ball

My memory is strong of my dad and I throwing a ball back and forth in the front yard. I would try to throw a curve ball and invariably it would bounce in the dirt and hit him in the chin.

My team was the “Big Red Machine” and I wanted to play third base like my hero Pete Rose. My dad would reference Brooks Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles when I would play third, but he was slightly before my time. 

I would eventually learn that I wasn’t good enough to make it that far, but I still love going to baseball games.

The best place to spend a few hours is at one of the many Minor League Baseball parks in Kentucky. A baseball fan can see a mix of players at a minor league game. You may see the seasoned veteran rehabilitating from an injury. You may see the bright-eyed new pro trying to make his mark, and at times, you may see world-class talent preparing for a major league roster.

I once went to Louisville for a Reds affiliate game—more specifically, I went  to see Deion Sanders prepare to join the majors. I sat close to him in left field, watching his amazing talent as he ran down a ball in the gap that no human should have been able to get to and then speed around the bases for a triple.

I want to encourage you to visit one of these parks as winter turns to spring. The entertainment, the food and the ability to see amazing athletes up close make it the best-kept sporting secret in Kentucky.

Many of the baseball coaches in your communities are staff and lineworkers of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives. Be sure to thank them for volunteering their time. Catch one of their games, too.

Chris Perry, Kentucky Electric Cooperatives President and CEO.

Denise Foster joins EKPC as VP, Federal and RTO Regulatory Affairs

WINCHESTER, Ky.— Denise Foster has joined East Kentucky Power Cooperative as Vice President of Federal and RTO Regulatory Affairs.

“Denise’s knowledge, experience and relationships are a tremendous addition to EKPC’s team as we strive to provide reliable, affordable, sustainable energy to our 16 owner-member cooperatives,” said Anthony “Tony” Campbell, EKPC’s President and CEO.

Foster has nearly 15 years of experience with PJM Interconnection, most recently as Vice President, State & Member Services. In that position, Foster led state regulatory and legislative activities and oversaw management of member relations for PJM, a regional transmission organization (RTO) that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states, including Kentucky, and the District of Columbia. EKPC has been a member of PJM since 2013. Foster also has served as Director of Policy Development for Exelon Corp.

“With energy and environmental policies driving changes in the electric industry, I am excited for the opportunity to represent the interests of EKPC’s 16 owner-member cooperatives and the 1.1 million members they serve in navigating and influencing these changes in the federal regulatory policy and RTO stakeholder process arenas,” Foster said.

At EKPC, Foster will oversee regulatory filings related to generation and transmission operations, as well as issues related to RTOs and other non-member electric utilities impacting EKPC’s operations.

“Denise comes to EKPC at a time when crucial issues and energy market changes are being considered at PJM and at the federal level,” said Don Mosier, EKPC’s Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President. “She brings a solid RTO and regulatory background that will bolster EKPC’s position and influence in these areas and help ensure that our owner-members’ interests are represented. Denise’s leadership and guidance will be invaluable.”

Foster is a graduate of Hood College and Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law.

STEM Grants awarded by local co-op

Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation and the Tennessee Valley Authority presented two $5000 STEM Grants this week to Drakes Creek Middle School and South Warren High School. Congrats!

STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) Grants is a discretionary grant program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

Rural Electric Magazine wants “Co-op Electric Vehicles” photos for February contest

Rural Electric Magazine announced their February photo contest theme is “Co-op Electric Vehicles.”

The magazine is requesting photo submissions of how your co-op demonstrates and promotes EVs to your members. 

Submissions and voting will be open until February 28. 

You can see entries that Rural Electric Magazine has received so far by clicking here

Jackson Energy, making a difference

Congratulations to North Laurel Middle School Youth Service Center who was recently awarded a $1,000 grant from Jackson Energy’s Operation RoundUP Fund. The North Laurel Middle YSC provides key necessities (such as food, clothing, school supplies and medical assistance) to their students that may need a helping hand throughout the year. Thank you North Laurel Middle YSC for making a difference in the lives of your students! For more information on Operation RoundUP, visit our website at

Giving is a two-way street

Who receives the most by participating in the Honor Flight program? Is it the veterans who get to visit the war memorials in Washington, D.C., at no cost to them, or is it the volunteers who help make the trip possible?

Joe Garland, a Jackson Energy Cooperative engineer and U.S. Army veteran, is an Honor Flight guardian. 

“It is quite an honor to escort a veteran back to see the memorials honoring their branch of the military,” he says. “We try to make sure it is a well-enjoyed trip. We want the veterans to get the respect they deserve but might not have gotten when they came home.”

At work, Garland gives back to the community as well. He surveys for new electric lines so homes, businesses and roads can be built.

Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives has sponsored the all-expenses-paid flight for veterans for the past nine years. To learn more about the program, go to

Joe Garland and Jim Bryant, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam, on the September 2019 Honor Flight. “It was an honor to be able to escort him to Washington, D.C.,” Joe says. Photo: Joe Garland


It’s often the little things that make a difference, says Katie Risley, a volunteer with CrossRoads to Hope in Owensboro and a senior accountant for Big Rivers Electric.

Katie often volunteers for the nonprofit’s emergency overnight shelter for women and children. The shelter provides a hot meal in the evening and a place for the women and their children to shower and sleep. Volunteers help connect the women with services to obtain housing, employment, government assistance, clothing, medical insurance and a host of other needs.

“I will take a DVD from home and watch it with the women,” Katie says. “Often that is the best 90 minutes of their week. I take bags of socks I no longer need, and the ladies love picking out a pair. The little things that I take for granted, they really appreciate.”

But Katie says the benefits run both ways.

“I love being there,” she says. “I get a lot out of it.”

Katie Risley, an auditor with Big Rivers Electric, Owensboro, volunteers at CrossRoads to Hope emergency overnight shelter for women and children.
Photo: Stephanie McCombs

RURAL Act Victory: How Co-ops Saved Their Tax-Exempt Status

Shortly after midnight on Dec. 17, congressional leaders met behind closed doors at the U.S. Capitol to negotiate a last-minute budget deal that would prevent a government shutdown. What became clear by sunrise was that the deal also included the RURAL Act, a simple one-page bill that would retain the tax-exempt status of electric cooperatives.

“It was really touch-and-go until the last minute,” said NRECA’s Paul Gutierrez, who led the two-year lobbying effort to resolve the issue. “The overwhelming emotion I felt was relief. I was feeling good for our team and for our members that we weren’t going to have to go into 2020 with this hanging over our heads.”

Some co-ops were facing the prospect of paying taxes this year because of a provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that redefined government grants as income. Any co-op that accepted grants to restore service after storms or bring broadband service to rural communities risked losing its tax-exempt status by exceeding the 15% limit on non-member revenue. The RURAL Act’s passage fixed that. 

Oregon Co-ops Get Creative

Oregon’s co-ops, battered by heavy winter storms in 2019 that knocked out power for thousands, were among those facing the loss of their tax-exempt status because they accepted disaster relief grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

The co-ops and statewide association lobbied hard for Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden’s support for the bill, sending thousands of emails, writing letters to the editors of local newspapers and giving interviews to Oregon television stations. Winning Wyden’s support was crucial because he’s the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax bills. He also ended up being one of the lawmakers in that all-important Dec. 17 deal-making session, along with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the lead sponsor championing the RURAL Act in the Senate.

Just two days before that gathering, Ted Case, executive director of the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association, attended one of Wyden’s town hall sessions in the state and presented him with a copy of the association’s magazine with the senator’s photo on the cover.

“The text on the cover said ‘Senator Ron Wyden is in a key position to help electric cooperatives. We’re counting on him,’” Case said. “That made an impression on him as a supporter of rural Oregon. The next day his staff called me and said the RURAL Act would be in the bill. If you’re going to lobby for something, you’ve got to go all-in and use everything at your disposal.”

Victory Grows From Year of Lobbying

While the victory was clinched in that late-night meeting of lawmakers, the moment was only possible because of intense lobbying and grassroots efforts by co-ops and NRECA that began a year earlier, said Louis Finkel, NRECA’s senior vice president of government relations. 

“What got done in the end was really driven by what we did starting at the beginning of the year,” Finkel said. “Before we began lobbying on the RURAL Act, we were meeting with more than 100 new members of the House and Senate in Co-op 101 sessions to explain what co-ops are: that we are not for profit and that we serve the communities where we live. That conversation was the precursor to pass the bill.”

As Congress entered its August recess, NRECA and co-op leaders crafted a campaign-style approach to pass the bill, including media outreach and communications from co-op CEOs, directors, employees and consumer-members to tell their elected officials what was at stake. 

Nearly 28,000 messages were sent to Congress through the Cooperative Action Network in support of the RURAL Act. In the end, more than two-thirds of the House and more than half of the Senate co-sponsored the bill. And when it came time for congressional leaders to decide which of the more than 100 tax-clarifying provisions would be included in the funding package, the RURAL Act was one of the few to make the cut.

“A lot of what made this possible was we had compelling stories from our members across the country,” Finkel said. “We were telling Congress: ‘This is a problem for real people in your states and your communities.’”

Small Co-op Brings Its Story to Congress

One of those stories came from Otsego Electric Cooperative in Hartwick, New York. CEO Tim Johnson realized early on that the 2017 tax law threatened his small co-op’s ability to bring high-speed internet service to its 4,000 members, many of whom live in impoverished areas.

He flew to Washington several times to lobby New York lawmakers, explaining that the co-op was at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because it accepted $10 million in state broadband grants. The co-op was facing federal taxes of as much as $2 million, along with other expenses associated with becoming a taxable entity.

“It was a hallelujah moment when the legislation was signed,” Johnson said. “I had many sleepless nights in December before that.”

Strategy Offers Lessons for Future

The bill’s bipartisan sponsors were also tireless in urging their colleagues to support the legislation. When NRECA CEO Jim Matheson reached out to House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., Neal joked that he was tired of hearing about the RURAL Act because Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., had been lobbying him constantly to support the bill. Sewell introduced the legislation in the House along with Adrian Smith, R-Neb. In the Senate, Portman led the effort along with Tina Smith, D-Minn.

“We were fortunate to have extraordinary champions,” Finkel said.

He said NRECA and its member co-ops will use the same campaign-style approach the next time they are lobbying on a major bill.

“This shows what we can do when we lock arms toward a common effort,” Finkel said. “Our entire co-op community should be proud of what we did and should celebrate their efforts in making this happen. But we know we can continue to improve on this model and build an even stronger grassroots network. That’s our objective for this year—we won’t be resting on our laurels.”

Erin Kelly is a staff writer for NRECA.

South Kentucky RECC CEO honored

SKRECC CEO Ken Simmons spoke to the Somerset/Pulaski Co Chamber of Commerce today about the co-op, the importance of community involvement and the co-op’s People Fund (round-up program that awards grants to organizations in our communities). Chamber President and East KY Power Regional Production Manager Troy Lovell presented Ken with a “Friend of the Chamber” plaque.

When people speak, Congress still listens

Kentucky legislators work to pass critical bill

Washington politics have become so polarized that it can be tough for Democrats and Republicans to come together to tackle big challenges. But that’s exactly what happened on Capitol Hill, thanks to dedicated Kentucky lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth, Hal Rogers, Brett Guthrie, James Comer and Andy Barr.

These legislators hail from different parts of the commonwealth and represent different political parties. But each listened to the concerns of electric cooperative stakeholders who spoke up about a critical need for America’s rural communities. The 2020 spending bill they approved included a provision known as the RURAL Act (Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands Act of 2019), which solved an existential issue for electric co-ops.

Electric co-ops work to secure government grants to help pay for numerous activities that benefit the communities they serve. These include grants for storm recovery, renewable energy and economic development.

Without the passage of the RURAL Act, federal disaster aid could have jeopardized the co-ops’ tax-exempt status if they faced another weather disaster like the 2009 ice storm. Thanks to our elected leaders, Kentucky’s electric co-ops are still eligible to receive this kind of assistance. 

In standing up for Kentucky’s local communities, these lawmakers proved that Congress still works for the people. Notably, the legislation drew the bipartisan support of more than 300 representatives in the House and more than half of the Senate before it was passed. That’s a rarity in Washington these days.

In today’s fast-paced society, it’s increasingly rare to pause to give thanks. That’s unfortunate.

Thank you, Sen. McConnell, and Reps. Barr, Comer, Guthrie, Rogers and Yarmuth. Thank you for looking out for rural communities across Kentucky.

Chris Perry, Kentucky Electric Cooperatives President and CEO.